There’s a good reason why insurance premiums are rising like your author’s blood pressure while scanning his Twitter feed, and it’s not just because providers really, really like making money. (They do, of course.) Average repair bills in the U.S. rose by about a third in the past three years, mainly due to the proliferation of safety technology, and insurance premiums followed. Country-wide, premiums rose 7.9 percent in 2017.
Cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar sensors tend to be located in areas of the vehicle most prone to damage, even in even low-speed collisions, and sturdy, exposed 5 mph bumpers are unfortunately a thing of the past. Many would prefer to see all automakers design their cars with repairs in mind, thus lowering future costs and premiums.
As an example of the headache of repairing technology-festooned vehicles, behold the average front-corner collision repair cost of one rare Korean sedan.
How does a bill for $34,000 sound? Keep in mind that this vehicle has little to no cachet and depreciates like it’s going out of style. Yes, we’re talking about the Kia K900, aka the Kia LeBron.
Speaking on Autoline This Week, John Van Alstyne, CEO and president of collision repair educator I-CAR, used the seldom-purchased luxury sedan as an example of the nightmare facing body shops in our modern, safety-obsessed age.
“At the end of the day, we’re advocating to OEMs to design for repair,” Van Alstyne said, crediting Ford for its efforts in this area. “You see OEMs kind of having different strategies of the location of these (high-tech) components. Getting it off the bumper is probably a good idea, because bumpers see damage all the time.”
“A normal left-front corner hit on [a Kia K900] results in a repair bill of circa $34,000, compared to an average of about $8,000,” he added. “So what happens there? Insurance cost go up, total lifecycle cost goes up, driven by cost of repair.”
The statistic Van Alstyne tossed out doesn’t come with a lot of context, but it’s not as if the K900 doesn’t have fellow travellers in the outrageous repair bill crowd. Adding a damaged safety system to the cost of straightening steel and affixing a new front fascia isn’t likely to make the owner’s (or insurance provider’s) wallet happier. Still, as far as we know, the K900 is an outlier in its field.
Luckily, there’s precious few of them around. As it prepares to launch an inexplicable second-generation model, Kia sold 27 K900s in the U.S. in August, down from the 35 it sold in August of last year, the 53 it sold in August 2016, and the 386 (!) sold in August 2015. The model’s popularity in Canada, where Kia sold seven K900s in 2017, probably isn’t worth mentioning.
[Image: Kia Motors]